Senatorial Stonewalling; Neas Gang Obstructs Judicial nominees.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Senatorial Stonewalling; Neas Gang Obstructs Judicial nominees.(OPED)


Byline: Thomas L. Jipping, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Today, on the anniversary of President Bush's first judicial nominations, Senate Democrats are holding a hearing on judicial confirmations. It could be to consider the 73 percent of those initial nominees still waiting for a hearing. It's not. Titled "Ghosts of Nominations Past: Setting the Record Straight," this hearing is to change the subject.

Scheduled deliberately to interfere with today's anniversary event, this hearing will somehow try to justify the Democrats' current confirmation obstruction campaign by saying the Republican Senate treated President Clinton's nominees badly. No, really - these grown politicians don't deny the obstruction, but use the excuse parents refuse to accept even from small children: "They did it first."

The American people won't fall for the con. First, Republicans didn't do it first. Judicial confirmation history did not begin in 1995 with the Republican Senate majority. The liberal New York Times reported in October 1988 that "Democrats were determined to bury" President Reagan's nominees before the election because those judicial positions were "too precious to . . . give up."

Four years later, believing they could capture the White House, Democrats killed even more Republican nominees. The Democrat Senate ignored 54 pending Bush nominees so that the Bush presidency would close with a whopping 97 judicial vacancies. It worked, vacancies swelling to 113 when Mr. Clinton took office. In contrast, the Republican Senate did not address 41 Clinton nominees, many named too late to consider, and the Clinton presidency closed with just 67 judicial vacancies. Mr. Bush faced 82 vacancies when he took office.

Second, Republicans didn't do it as much. In today's hearing, subcommittee chairman Sen. Charles Schumer surely won't mention that since he and his fellow Democrats took over the Senate last year, vacancies have averaged 45 percent higher than when Republicans ran the Senate under Mr. Clinton. This difference is a pattern, not an aberration. Over the last dozen years, judicial vacancies averaged 113 when Democrats ran the Senate and just 71 when Republicans were in charge.

Third, the accusation doesn't make sense. Republican resistance to some Clinton nominees helped create some vacancies but does not even explain, let alone justify, Democrats' refusal to fill those vacancies today. The excuse for higher vacancies in the early 1990s - that the first President Bush made few nominations - doesn't work, either. The second President Bush has sent the Senate a record number of nominations, including 30 to the U.S. Court of Appeals. While the previous three presidents enjoyed an average 92 percent confirmation rate for their appeals- court nominees in their first two years, Mr. …

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